William McCormack, Contributing Photographer

The Yale men’s basketball team was gearing up for what would have been its first game of Ivy League conference basketball in 666 days, but COVID-19 is again delaying that long-awaited return.

Yale’s game vs. Columbia was postponed Saturday morning due to COVID-19 concerns and safety protocols within the Bulldog program, according to a release from the Ivy League, Yale Athletics and Columbia Athletics. The Elis would have hosted the Lions Sunday at noon in front of an empty John J. Lee Amphitheater with no fan attendance.

“Due to COVID-19 concerns and safety protocols within the Yale men’s basketball program, Yale’s game against Columbia on Sunday, Jan. 2 at the John J. Lee Amphitheater has been postponed,” the release read. “The game will be rescheduled for a date and time to be determined.”

A spokesperson for the Yale men’s basketball team said he could not comment on how many players were in isolation or quarantine protocols or whether Yale would have been under the seven-player minimum that the Ivy League is requiring for basketball games to occur.

Yale’s postponed Columbia game is now its second contest affected by COVID-19 protocols within the last 10 days. The Elis’ Dec. 23 game vs. Howard was canceled due to positive tests in the Bison program. At that point, guard and captain Jalen Gabbidon ’22 told the News that the team had not yet recorded a positive test all season. “While the current COVID situation is frustrating because of the 2020-21 Ivy sports cancellations,” he said after the Howard game was canceled, “the reality is it’s just the world we live in.”

The contest is not the first Ivy League men’s basketball game called off for Sunday. COVID-19 issues in the Harvard program forced it to reschedule its opener vs. Princeton to Feb. 27. The change was announced Friday afternoon.

“You really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Columbia head coach Jim Engles said of pandemic-era game scheduling in an interview with the News Friday afternoon. “If something happens where games get canceled or the schedule gets a little screwed up, we’ll have to deal with it as we go through it.”

Amid a nationwide spike in coronavirus cases, coaches and players across college basketball are nearly all grappling with the same last-minute cancellations and scheduling changes. The postponed Yale-Columbia contest joins more than 200 NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball games that have either been canceled, forfeit or postponed since Christmas. 

The Yale women’s basketball team is still scheduled to visit Columbia for its Ancient Eight opener Sunday at 1 p.m.

William McCormack covered Yale men's basketball from 2018 to 2022. He served as Sports Editor and Digital Editor for the Managing Board of 2022 and also reported on the athletic administration as a staff reporter. Originally from Boston, he was in Timothy Dwight College.